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My "Best of Ireland" Tour Journal

Chapter 4: Killarney to Waterford

Blarney has always been known for its strong woolen industry. However, even better known worldwide is the Blarney Castle. Now privately owned by the Colthurst family it still attracts a steady stream of tourists looking to kiss the Blarney Stone and so be given the "gift of gab".

During the time of Elizabeth I, which followed the 5 year reign of "Bloody Mary", the Blarney castle was the stronghold of the Earls of Blarney - the McCarthy's. Elizabeth favoured the "reformation" because, at the time, there were almost 9 million people in Ireland and only 4 million in England. Elizabeth felt vulnerable. She was surrounded by Catholic countries: Spain, France and Ireland. She tried to get all of the Irish landowners to pay her allegiance in order to have their protection. At that time most of Ireland was owned by only 250 families. (Heraldic maps are available which show where the family ownerships were.) Elizabeth offered the landowners titles, places in Court and money in exchange for their lands and a change in their religion. Connor McDermott McCarthy, the Earl of Blarney, strung Elizabeth along for quite a while. He didn't say no to her offer yet he kept putting her off. Hence Blarney became synonymous with "intending to deceive without meaning to offend". Elizabeth did eventually manage to confiscate the lands of the Earl of Blarney until the Fitzgeralds intervened and put a stop to her.

The story that started the whole tourist craze goes like this: Once, one of the McCarthys fell into the lake and was rescued by a beautiful serving girl. She had an extremely bad speech impediment and felt it would stop her from being married to the man she was secretly in love with. The McCarthy gentleman, grateful for having been rescued, told her that if she climbed to the top of the castle and kissed a specific stone found there, then she would be cured of her affliction. She did as she was told. Her affliction disappeared and she married the man she was in love with. Since then the Blarney Stone has been kissed by millions in an effort to receive the "gift of blarney".

Cork is surrounded by hills and mountains. It's name comes from "Corcagh", the Irish word for moss. Cork is the 2nd largest City in the republic with close to 200,000 people. The centre area of the city was originally a Viking establishment. After this it belonged to the McCarthys for a period. The Normans took it from them and they in turn seized it back.

It is a very cultured city. The Cork Opera House can seat 1600 people. It has the largest stage house in Ireland.

Cork's railway station was the first red brick building to be erected in Ireland. In 1917 the Ford Motor Company opened its first European factory in Cork because Henry Ford was from there. In the 1980's Ford closed the factory as did Dunlap Tires. This caused a hardship in the area that lasted until the software companies began arriving in the 1990's. Software and pharmaceuticals are Cork's two largest industries.

The Church of Ste. Anne has a tower with a clock on each side. It has been dubbed by the locals as the "four-faced liar" because typically no two of the clocks indicate the same time.

Tivoli, a section of Cork, is so named because it means "beside the water". It is located beside the River Lee.

In 1730 Blackrock Castle was built by Lord Mountjoy to defend the water entrance to the city.

Cobh, pronounced "Cove" (There is no "v" in the Irish language. The combination of "bh" is pronounced as a "v".), was known as Queensland for a period of time to commemorate Queen Victoria's visit.

Cobh is the port from which most people left Ireland. Between 1791 and 1853, 39,000 convicts were transported from Ireland to Australia. This was followed between 1848 and 1852 by the transportation of 4,000 orphan Irish girls to Australia. After the famine, between 1855 and 1914, four million people left Ireland for England and the United States. Three hundred thousand went to Canada but many of these then went south to the United States.

By the very fact of its location, some sad stories are associated with it. The bodies from the Lusitania were brought ashore at Cobh. Cobh was also the last port of call for the Titanic.

Most of the Irish whiskey is made here. The distillery also owns Bushnell's in Atrium. It's the oldest legal distillery in Ireland. It was the monks in the monastery who first distilled whiskey for medicinal purposes. They called it the "water of life". It is from the Irish word for water that the word "whiskey" was eventually derived.
The name of the town comes from the Irish word for "yew tree". It sits on the edge of the Irish Sea, sometimes called the Celtic Sea. The word Celtic is always pronounced with a hard C. There was no such sound as a soft c in the Irish language.

There was once a walled fort in this area. In 1588-89 the mayor was Walter Raleigh who received the post because of his help in defeating the Spanish Armada. For this, Queen Elizabeth I gave him 82,000 acres and money to build a manor house - "Myrtle Grove". There was also a castle in Lismore, in County Waterford, that he received along with the lands. Later he was tried for treason and ended up in the Tower of London. While he was in the Tower he needed money for his defense so he sold the castle and his estates to Richard Boyle, an Elizabethan adventurer who made his fortune from the conveyance of land. One of Boyle's daughters married a Duke of Devonshire which is how the Devonshires came to hold all of the land. One of the Devonshire family married Adele Astaire. Another married Kathleen Kennedy.

The Countess of Desmond is reputed to have lived to be 136 years old and is buried in Youghall.

In 1954 the movie "Moby Dick" was filmed here.

In this area, in Ardmare, the ruins of a monastic settlement are found. The round towers, an example of which can be seen here, first started to be built in the monastic settlements in the 9th or 10th century. They were built as places of solitude but also for refuge when an attack was made on the settlement.

Dungarven is the one town in Ireland that Cromwell did not destroy. It is said that he spared it because, as he went to enter the walled town, an old lady at the gates touched him emotionally by toasting his health.

There are a few stones left in the area from the ruins of one of King John's four Irish castles.

In the 12th century, Dermott MacMurrough Cavanaugh was the King of Leinster. He was said to have coveted the wife of Chieftain Tiernan O'Rourke. She was reputedly the most beautiful woman in Ireland. Dermott waited for Tiernan to go on pilgrimage then had his soldiers kidnap her and bring her to County Wexford. Tiernan was furious on his return. He went to Rory O'Connor, the High King to ask for assistance in getting his wife back. All of the armies were brought together to attack Dermott. Dermott had no allies so he went to Henry II, the King of the Normans, and asked for help. Henry sent him to the Norman Lords in Wales. He made a deal with "Strongbow" to marry his daughter and take his throne if he was successful in the war, even though he had no hereditary rights to give the land away.

In 1003 "Reginald's Town" was built by King Reginald of the Vikings. It was later renamed Waterford. It was founded by the Vikings and walled in by the Normans. It sits on the River Suir.

In 1752 the Waterford Crystal Factory was started. They brought in glasscutters from Czechoslovakia. The factory was closed in the 1800's because of a law banning exports from Ireland. It was reopened in 1947. Waterford Crystal remains one of the world's most respected producers of fine crystal and employs about 2500 people.

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